Editor, SEGAFFSH (pronounced Sega Fish) is an acronym for Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter, also known as Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter. This nonprofit organization, incorporated in 1999, is dedicated to enhancing the overall economic value of Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield and its surrounding communities. The members of SEGAFFSH ensure that the Army understands that Fort Stewart /Hunter AAF is not only an economic engine in this area but has immense strategic importance to the nation.
To do this, we use a regional approach focused on partnership and collaboration. That means we invite all local government, businesses and individuals in southeast Georgia that are impacted by Fort Stewart/Hunter AAF to join us.
According to www.georgia.org, eight of the top 10 defense contractors in the nation have operations in Georgia. The military spends $18.6 billion in Georgia on defense, which is 4.7 percent of the state’s total gross domestic product. For total Department of Defense employment, Georgia ranks fifth in the U.S. This is pretty significant in comparison to our other sources of income and employment, which are the Georgia ports and tourism.
On a local level, the impact of the military is even more significant. According to fiscal-year 2013 command data provided by Fort Stewart/Hunter AAF, annual expenditures by the military in the Southeast region are $1,743,339 and school Impact Aid funds totaled $9,149,465. At that time, there were 23,149 military tenant units, 37,002 military family members, 4,007 military civilian employees and 26,600 reserve components.
Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield also provide the Army’s premier and only mechanized/armored-power projection combination east of the Mississippi River. It is a tailor-made installation for soldiers to train, raise their families and expeditiously deploy. Live-fire armor, artillery, helicopter gunnery and small-arms ranges operate simultaneously with minimal training days lost to inclement weather. Designated military airspace is available with no significant environmental or encroachment issues. We also are home to three airports, one of which has the longest Army runway in the continental U.S. Undoubtedly, Fort Stewart/Hunter is the most-affordable location for combat soldiers to live, train, operate and deploy.
We understand this, and the surrounding communities steadfastly support the soldiers, their mission and their families in and out of deployments. However, those removed from Fort Stewart/Hunter AAF often don’t get the opportunity to learn this information from mandated reports or routine evaluations. This is the type of information we share and the messages that are taken to our state leaders in Atlanta and our national leaders as well as Army officials in Washington.
During out last visit in March, Bill Cathcart, civilian aide to secretary of the Army, and Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas showed maps depicting military operations areas along the southeast Georgia coast. The delegation stressed the current Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Analysis is deficient in that it does not assign greater value to Fort Stewart because it is located in close proximity to the Air Dominance Center/Townsend Range, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, etc. Secretary Katherine Hammack was especially appreciative of the regional installation analysis and said ours was the first delegation from the around the country that has made that important connection.
Fort Stewart/Hunter is a regional economic engine that needs our support across the coast of Georgia. SEGAFFSH is the group that is making sure everyone knows the great work the 3rd Infantry Division is doing from its home in southeast Georgia. This is just the beginning, and there is still work to be done. If you are interested in joining Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter, go to www.friendsoffortstewartandhunter.com.